The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Denial and Pseudo-Skepticism are Not the Same Thing

Pseudo-skepticism is the form of cynicism wherein a power holding group tampers with methods and science, media and social pressure mechanisms inside a domain of large unknown – in order to craft and enforce on the public, a null hypothesis or conclusion narrative, that might at best be accidentally correct. This is completely distinct from the process of denial. Suspension in denial may be existentially incorrect, but it at least stems in its originality from proper method and does not enforce a particular small-unknown domain conclusion narrative. The distinguishing difference is this: An ethical scientist might be a denialist at times, but an ethical scientist can never be a pseudo-skeptic.

I recently had a discussion on Twitter with a gentleman (and separately a brief dispute with a posing pseudo-intellectual who seemed more focused on me than this topic) about the distinguishing earmarks which separate stances of denial from the methods of pseudo-skepticism. The contention is often made inside social skepticism, that the denial of Anthropogenic Global Warming, constitutes ‘pseudo-skepticism’. This because those who oppose AGW claim to be using skepticism to support their uncertainty over that consensus conclusion. The purpose of this charade in tampering with otherwise well fitted definitions of pseudo-skepticism and denial, is to provide a misdirection with respect to understanding the actions of social skeptics on other issues (true pseudo-skepticism). Social Skeptics enjoy enormously the opportunity to misinform the public through the ridicule that can be generated over highly contentious and visible issues just such as climate change. Denialists may even borrow some of the errant methods taught by social skeptics in their desperation to keep an issue open. But just as vigilantes and police might appear to at times share methods, they are not the same thing at all. (Please note that I am an AGW advocate, I just maintain questions surrounding some of the consensus alternatives which were, or were not, researched in our process of deduction therein. Nor do I extrapolate the science into contentions that evil working Americans or Republicans are therefore worthy of violent opposition and disdain)

Denial is simply dogmatic allegiance to a refusal to accept a consensus based conclusion of science or groups claiming to represent science (dogmatic dissent). And while denial does involve avoiding selection of an alternative or promotion of the null hypothesis as a Verdrängung Mechanism, it really has nothing to do with one being ‘open minded’ – and may indeed be based cruxially upon a closed mindset. It does not mean that one is using skepticism incorrectly necessarily – rather that their dissent has ossified into a condition of dogmatic cynicism – and not that any particular feature of their skepticism is necessarily wrong. There is never a condition of skepticism wherein one just throws up their hands at any kind of questioning, basking in the bliss of the ‘right answer’ – as attractive a surrender as this might appear to the political agenda laden, weary or snowflake heart.

Skepticism itself does not mean that I must accept specific answers, it simply means that I defend the methods of science, even in the face of popular votes – and withhold disposition until a critical nexus is reached. A skeptic can simply be contending that this nexus has not yet been reached – and even disagree with inadequately supported claims to consensus. One can do this however, and still ossify into the cynical specter of denial.  In contrast, and as exhibited in the chart above (click to expand), pseudo-skepticism is the form of cynicism wherein a power wielding group tampers with methods and science, associations, media and social pressure mechanisms in order to create and enforce on the public, a false null hypothesis or conclusion narrative. This is completely distinct from the process of denial. Denial may be existentially wrong – yet still have stemmed from proper science methods originally. Pseudo-skepticism is agenda laden methodical doubt – used to identify the bad guys who don’t accept the right answer – and is only existentially correct in its conclusion by accident. Denial does not enforce any particular conclusion, only pseudo-skepticism does this.

A chief tactic of social skepticism is to blur the distinct integrity of words which might be useful in describing and communicating the methods of masquerade they employ.

A Contrast: Example of Pseudo-Skepticism

Of course, enormous uncertainty surrounds the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan during the terminal leg of their journey around the world. On the team’s fateful July 2nd 1937 trip, their radio signal was picked up by a number of surrounding radio stations (Oahu, Midway, Howland and Wake islands). Despite Noonan having been trained in what is called Dead Reckoning and Radio Direction Finding navigation, they were unable to utilize the bearing of the radio direction signal from the on-station Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, in order to develop a track from their DR (navigation slang for a ‘Dead Reckoning track’ – an assumed-correct course based upon speed, bearing and time – an inductive extrapolation used frequently in navigation – I have over 7,000 practice hours in this method of navigation). A track which would lead them to a visual confirmation of Howland Island, their destination. Itasca had detected Earhart and Noonan right on the correct bearing for termination of the DR phase of their navigation plot. Yet, despite having the Itasca’s axial measurement on their RDF radio, Earhart and Noonan never showed up for the scheduled landing. A very odd occurrence given that four of five navigational variables (Howland axis, distance, speed, time) had been solved for, and only one uncertain variable remained – axial distance to Howland Island.

When you are a skeptic, who is misapplying skepticism and fail to realize that you don’t understand critical elements of dead reckoning navigation or how radio direction finding antennas work, you might assemble grand logical conjectures which are erroneous in attempting to provide a ‘simple’ explanation to this mystery (note: this is not an instance of Dunning-Kruger Error because neither celebrity skeptic communicator, Michael Shermer nor Brian Dunning are ‘peers’ to any dead reckoning navigators as a discipline group – this is simply an instance of failed skepticism, pseudo-skepticism – and great example at that). Moreover, if the club picks up your ‘rationality’ and hails it as a championing issue, then that error becomes dogmatic – ossifying, from methodical doubt in the handling of Ockham’s Razor sufficient alternatives, into the a priori bias of pseudo-skepticism. For example, in his June 22nd blog, Brian Dunning inexpertly applies apparent common sense to the issue – a grave mistake when used in lieu of actual investigative skepticism:

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan had followed Itasca’s radio direction finding signal to get there. The water there is very deep, and it’s unlikely that much survives of the plane to ever be found. There’s never been any mystery surrounding her loss at sea.

For some reason, [TIGHAR’s] Gillespie thinks they flew instead to an island called Nikumaroro, a full ten degrees off the course they are known to have followed, and which their fuel onboard made it physically impossible to reach.1

The astute ethical skeptic will notice primarily that Dunning here is overconfident in his promotion of the single, popular, Occam’s (sic) Razor, conforming and simple Verdrängung Mechanism solution. The argument is over and no further research needs to be done as “There’s never been any mystery surrounding [their] loss at sea.” Well, as it turns out, this entire contention set is incorrect. It is pseudo-skepticism. It may make sense for the general public (the vulnerable of pseudo-skepticism) to consume the idea that a tenacious pilot and experienced navigator just flew mindlessly until they ran out of fuel, but it does not make sense to a seasoned investigator (skeptic).

Pseudo-skeptics package material for general consumption. Their goal is not truth; rather, influence.

First, Noonan followed Itasca’s radio direction AXIS, not bearing (as Dunning implies), and there is a difference which a skilled dead reckoning and RDF navigator knows, a skeptic might ascertain, but a pseudo-skeptic will never know (and more importantly, never get the feedback that their skeptical method was wrong). The ‘Loop’ or axial antenna is shown mounted on top of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra in the photo to the right.2 What this type of direction finding device gives is a two bearing axis, not a single bearing direction.3 So the information Fred Noonan would have possessed was ‘Howland Island is either 350 degrees true from us, or 170 degrees true from us’ (see map above, upon termination of the dead reckoning phase of navigation). Their next step would be to fly one of the axis bearings to see if the signal faded or strengthened. The problem is that they were using very low HF (today’s frequency standards) frequencies, of which the signal propagation will dance around and chaotically strengthen and diminish no matter where you are. I once encountered a circumstance in my communications radio operator days where a 3MHz signal just like they used here, was totally clear from Diego Garcia, 1500 nautical miles away, yet I could not hear another transmitter on that same frequency band which was just 100 nautical miles from me.  This is the way radio frequency HF direction finding works. It bears enormous risk in its interpretation.

In addition, there was no ‘there’ to be gotten to in the first place. The navigation plot was ending its DR phase (an inductive conjecture) and transitioning to a radio directed phase (a deductive measure). This transition occurs at only a theoretical ‘there’. This is why a fix (the yellow circle with a dot inside it, on the chart above) is symbolized by a full circle, and carries more confidence than does a DR (in tomato) which is symbolized by a half circle. These symbols imply confidence on the datum.

Would not such symbology help in matters of science, to distinguish conclusions of induction and abduction pushed by pseudo-skeptics, as distinct from conclusions of deduction on a Query Oriented Normalization schema? But, we learn in pseudo-skepticism that the duty of skeptics is to defend questionable inductive answers (DR half circles) as science and never look again. The DR-science is finished. So…

Second, yes all the water was deep everywhere and no, it is not ‘unlikely’ – rather prohibitive, that any wreckage of the plane survives to this day, had they ditched in open ocean as he suggests.

Pseudo-skeptics rely upon how clever a phrase sounds, rather than its probative value. They will rarely catch a circumstance wherein we have stacked deductive methods on top of inductive conclusions. This is not a sound process – despite its looking ‘sciencey’ through its equipment and analytical tools. It is as dangerous socially for mankind every bit as much as it was navigationally for Noonan and Earhart.

Third, they did not follow a ‘known’ course as Dunning describes it, as Earhart and Noonan did not find the course confirming islands they had hoped for.4 A DR is not a ‘known’ course and speed, it is rather just as in the case of ‘there’ above, an assumption. If the prevailing winds were 10 knots south rather than the 1937 era forecast 3 knots north, then that would impart a 50 nautical mile error into the ‘known & there’. This is called a ‘tail condition’ in arrival distribution science – a less common scenario, but all too possible and real. The purpose of navigation is to use discipline methods to mitigate the risk of this assumption aspect of navigation and any tail condition circumstances.5

Pseduo-skeptics habitually fail to assess risk, tail variance and significance, as well as the impact of human behavior on social systems inside objective scenarios or their own construct analysis.

Fourth, Nikumaroro is EXACTLY ON, Noonan’s RDF search axis with Howland Island, a natural island to find once one has terminated their DR, and begun an uncertain axis search (again, something a pseudo-skeptic would never know).6

Pseudo-skeptics will tamper with terminology, using large footprint equivocal words, altering the meaning of probative terms in order to emasculate them, and switching critical words so as to reduce their expository value – like here, employing ‘bearing’ in lieu of ‘axis’. They are fully aware that 97% of the population, none of their cronies, nor scientists will catch the significance of the shell game.

Fifth, as you can see on the per hoc aditum scenario chart above, if Earhart and Noonan did not have the fuel to reach Nikumaroro, then they did not have the fuel to reach Howland Island, their destination either; unless the wind was just right (emphasis here). I seriously doubt that an experienced global pilot like Earhart would have taken off without enough fuel to cover for unexpected normal circumstance wind set and drift (such as 13 knots to the north or south).

This habit of crafting apparently solid debunkings, which rely upon clever sounding one-liners, in lieu of real understanding – this is a habit of pseudo-skepticism. Once you apply short cut one-liners in one discipline, you will do them in all (see Margold’s Law). The call here is to hold epoché, not craft appeal to authority solutions without real evidence.

Finally, their fuel would have run out EXACTLY about the time of spotting Nikumaroro island, based on the theoretical DR/RDF axis search, which is the standard practice of RDF/DR navigators. They had enough fuel to take the above track and even circle the island to see where they might land; as a reasonably conservative pilot will choose a deserted island beach over a chance of an open sea landing, any day, any time. If they are in trouble, they will land in a place where survival is enhanced and not chance a total loss in trying to find something better. Earhart did not have to be ‘ten degrees off course’ as Dunning inexpertly opines, because the “off course” variation he assumes is explained by the very RDF axis search Fred Noonan was trained to execute (in yellow in the image above).

A pseudo-skeptic will fail to see the non-linear dynamic outcomes of which a system is capable. Solutions are therefore easy, common sense founded upon induction – and become  prescriptive through Lindy Effect from that point onward – most fully unaware of the thin ice upon which their grand cosmologies stand.

Not to mention of course that the final radio direction finding fix of the aggregate of all the RDB reports from the surrounding islands (see on the chart above, the grey bearings reported by Itasca, Oahu, Midway, Howland and Wake islands – collectively support an aggregate fix at the position of the yellow circle fix), much more solidly than does ‘simplest explanation’ skepticism, places Earhart and Noonan about 50 nautical miles north of a nearest proximity island, right on the Howland search axis …Nikumaroro.

What distinguishes fake skepticism, just like fake news, from the real thing – is not the facts you bring to bear; but rather the facts you choose to leave out.

Note as well, that if I use only the radio direction bearings of the two closest radio stations (Itasca and Midway), then I get a two-shot fix right on top of Nikumaroro island. This should have been one of the first places to examine. Never underestimate the impact of the human desire to survive and skilled pilot ingenuity on ‘simplest answer’ alternative hierarchies.

The problem with social skepticism is not that individuals abuse skepticism to prematurely arrive at a personal wrong conclusion. The problem does not reside in simply being wrong. With social skepticism the entire scientific and public community at large, intimidated by simple linear approved thought, arrive at and permanently affix these errant conclusions. We take Dead Reckoning style induction or abduction – and falsely regard it as proved science. Then we stack such conclusions upon each other into grand assemblies of Dead Reckoning tracks – ignorant of the error we have imparted and multiplied (see Contrasting Deontological Intelligence with Cultivated Ignorance).

It does not matter that these individuals are rational and can eventually at a later time, be brought to understand what really happened inside such mysteries. What matters is that they over-confidently estimate their ability to spot and define ‘likelihood’ – and failing to evaluate that risk, compound it by releasing such conclusions as ‘rational’, ‘factual’ and science-based – simply because they think they used skepticism.

They would have circled and landed, only minutes after these transmission bearing measurements, as a precautionary measure. Observe the graphic I assembled above which reflects these final RDF bearings, and note where their weighted three-shot fix resides.7 A very compelling theory – and this is how science actually works. Why did Brian Dunning not do this same research? Because he was applying pseudo-skepticism (see Steven Novella’s definition). He selected for one imperious and likely correct answer, to be enforced by bad method – upon us all. My citing that his biased selection of one answer, constitutes wrong method, does not serve to make me therefore a ‘denier’ – even if 97% of his cohorts support the single answer.

Pseudo-skeptics employ derision or humor, not just to motivate deniers to accede to scientific gravitas, they mostly employ humor to block critical alternatives and prohibit deductive science, because of its distinct probative & epistemic value. They do not care what is truth – they care what you believe is truth. Often the developers of pseudo-skeptic propaganda (like the above fake science tweet from a paid hashtag stuffer – someone employed to squelch disdained ideas) are hired and compensated to play such a role. Deniers typically, not always, but typically rely upon conscience.

Knee-jerk dismissing this compelling theory as a viable and testable alternative, in favor of ceasing science and adopting a simple or socially preferred/conforming explanation, ‘they crashed into the sea’ – this is pseudo-skepticism. You will see it play over and over inside society – it is not the same as denialism.

Denialism is probably being wrong; pseudo-skepticism is being not even wrong.

Dismissal of a very compelling alternative theory – one which is supported to a great degree by the intelligence, one which is rational, one which is highly plausible by expert method, one which bears mechanism and can be tested (not that an ethical skeptic assumes it as a priori correct); dismissing this in advance of sufficient knowledge horizon development or testing is …pseudo-skepticism. It is pseudo-science. More specifically, what have Shermer and Dunning done here? In specific regard to pseudo-skepticism their contentions feature a degree of Methodical Pathology combined with a knee-jerk compulsion to enforce conformity. That is, they have ossified from dissent to cynicism. Specifically many pseudo-skeptics practice the following:

Hints that one might be a pseudo-skeptic (wrong methods and only accidentally correct)

  • A pseudo-skeptic rarely understands an opposing alternative, they socially – just don’t care about soundness or logical calculus
  • Has bought into one single answer
  • Promotes conjecture and conformance inside a subject with a large horizon of unknown
  • Chooses a ceremonial issue
  • Focuses on issues which bear no productive achievement potential with respect to love, an increase in usable knowledge, or the alleviation of suffering
  • Uses non-expert skeptics, as communicators – instead of investigative reporters
  • Decides the likelihood of ideas before the preponderance of compelling theory has been researched
  • Targets groups or legitimate researchers bearing ideas they do not like, as the bad guys (TIGHAR in this case) – polarizing and corrupting the issue a priori
  • Employs hearsay, common and ‘friendly sounding’ information as the principal elements to communicate
  • Enforces a popular standing belief as the ‘simplest explanation’
  • Chooses an issue which will incite their faithful with interest
  • Selects a position which can be perceived as being the ‘rational’ approach
  • Selects a position or issue which will tender them attention
  • Chooses a topic which contains enough unknown such that bias is hard to discern or be held to account for
  • Selects an issue where Nickell Plating (doing sciencey-looking things to appear skepticky) is practicable
  • Chooses an issue where to conform to the standing explanation can be used to show why those who oppose you are ‘irrational’
  • Stands in a position to block the investigation of compelling alternatives or intelligence
  • Assigns a null hypothesis which has been assigned without merit (See The Five Types of Null Hypothesis Error)
  • Never held epoché to begin with
  • Accepts entire bundles of scientific ideas based upon what political side they appear to reinforce
  • Employs false methods of science (often with real true facts) in order to petition for cessation of further investigative activity
  • A pseudo-skeptic considers violence or legal action as a possibility at hand in the enforcement of their conclusions
  • Can never be an ethical scientist
  • Employs false science method – pseudoscience

A Contrast: Example of Denial

AGW opponents, contrary to the shtick of social skeptics who promote anthropogenic global warming social agendas, might actually use skepticism.  They might be wrong, they might reside in a state of dogged denial – but those existential circumstances do not serve to relegate their skepticism to status as pseudo-skepticism, simply because they disagree. A denialist just simply might not be willing to accept the consensus alternative. An ethical scientist might be a denialist, but an ethical scientist can never be a psuedo-skeptic. More specifically for this example, a denialist ‘denies’ that the null below has been correctly assigned; and denies further that all of the alternatives below have been falsified through ample research and processes of deductive consilience:

Null – Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, introduced by human activity and increasing from from 280 parts per million in the 19th century to more than 400 today, much more than any other greenhouse gas or factor, is the primary contributor to climate change since 18508

Alternatives –

1.  Cyclical changes in Total Solar Irradiance (TSI), on increase since 1850, is the major contributor

2.  A cyclical shift in Solar Spectral Index (SSI), towards more release of water-vapor-absorptive infrared irradiance by the sun, has occurred since 1850 and is the major contributor

3.  Primary Earth orbital dynamics (obliquity, eccentricity and axis precession), as recorded in the Milankovitch Cycles, are at least partial and not fully understood contributors

4.  Cyclical changes to the Earth’s core nuclear reactor and structural/mantle dynamics (as measurable by geoneutrinos and as observed historically in the Schumann Resonance/Earth temperature record) have served to heat the oceans from the bottom up in the Pacific Rim of Fire and equatorial thermal regions (El Niño and La Niña), and consequently the pole ice from the bottom up, and atmosphere since 18509 10 11 12 13

5.  Deforestation and/or loss of reflectiveness/ocean/ice absorption has been the primary contributor to climate change since 1850

6.  Natural processes of water vapor, carbon and methane atmospheric release, in combination with and as precipitated resulting from the Null, or 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5 or any combination thereof, explain the majority of temp increases since 1850

7.  Carbon, methane and water vapor are all released as a natural sympathetic outcome of climate change, and are not primarily contributed by man – nor the principal cause, rather only a correlation with some other causal condition

Note of Clarity – A denialist denies that the Null has been chosen by valid rational or empirical processes nor that it should be rationally selected for consensus. A pseudo-skeptic denies that the alternatives are even science, or insists that they should never have been seriously investigated to begin with, or merit zero investigation now.

For me personally, I hold the Precautionary Principle as one contributor to the reason I favor taking action based upon the Null Hypothesis in the matter of climate change – and complimentarily because I have read all the material I could find on alternatives 1 – 7, and found nothing compelling enough to be considered as a falsification of the Null. Alternative 4 is interesting, but only interesting so far. I wish we had more study on it. In so far as our temperature models are now outrunning our carbon curves (see graphic I assembled at right which includes the 2017 Mauna Loa data), then we need to keep a skeptical eye on our own conclusions, in order to avoid falling into pseudo-skepticism. Denial in contrast involves ignoring climate change warnings: greenhouse gasses, and carbon dioxide in particular, are not simply a ‘correlation’ with global temperature increases, rather a fingerprint signal. A distinction point which not only denialists, but fake skeptics as well tend to misunderstand (as in the case of autism contributors for example).

I maintain skepticism around the issue and bear some concern that we have not fully investigated the contribution from all alternatives 1 – 7. But like most scientists, hold the need for precaution and the current inductive data – as bearing more concerning gravitas. Should I encounter data which develops a compelling case for Alternative 4 and 6 for instance – that does not immediately serve to make me a denialist.  If however I am protecting the null hypothesis and begin to wage a campaign to have science ignore Alternative 4, then I am indeed a pseudo-skeptic. Do you see the game they are playing with our language in order to obscure this clarification on behalf of the general public (see Wittgenstein Error and Its Faithful Participants)?

These are the kind of games for which an ethical skeptic must be ever vigilant.

Take a hint folks, fake skeptics do not hold the reasoned position I just outlined above. They are correct – but only by accident. Moreover, they employ such correctness to enact goals which have nothing really to do with the science – rather someone they hate. I respect a researching denier much more, for this simple reason. But Let’s be clear here too folks – each of these alternatives listed above are actual scientific alternatives and their investigation is done with actual science methods. In contrast, pseudo-skepticism relies upon false methods. This makes it not science. The rightness or wrongness of the conclusion has nothing to do with it. A denialist, in contrast may practice the following:

Hints that one might be a denialist (right original methods yet may be doggedly incorrect)

  • A denialist understands the alternative they are denying, as well or better than do its proponents – they disagree on its soundness
  • Has not bought into one single answer
  • Withholds conjecture and consent inside an issue of a small horizon unknown
  • Does not choose an issue, but may have it thrust upon them
  • Focuses on issues of productive achievement potential with respect to love, an increase in usable knowledge, or the alleviation of suffering
  • Uses experts who focus on the salient evidence, eschewing ‘communicators’
  • Resists a priori definitions of likelihood
  • Doesn’t target anyone – just simply disagree with either soundness or logical calculus
  • Sometimes employs hearsay, common and ‘friendly sounding’ information as the principal elements of support only
  • Does not choose a ‘simplest explanation’ – cognizant that things may be more complex than we understand
  • Does not have a faithful following
  • Does not conflate rationality with conformance
  • Does not seek attention
  • Cites and alerts the community to bias – not a specific conclusion
  • Never pretends to be or represent science, just simply skepticism
  • Does not argue ‘rationality’ and ‘irrationality’ – rather corruption and conclusiveness
  • Does not block research of any alternatives – even the one they question
  • Dissents as to the null hypothesis assigned, but may refuse to assign one as well
  • Has held epoché past its utility
  • May resist a whole set of scientific ideas they perceive to be politically motivated
  • Employs real methods of science (sometimes with errant data or assumptions) to encourage more scientific research
  • A denialist rarely or ever considers violence or legal action as an at-hand solution to their debate
  • Might be simply a mistaken ethical scientist
  • Employs science – just errs in conclusion, soundness or logical calculus

Behind the Conflation of the Two Terms

Pseudo-skepticism is an entirely distinct malicious and errant method and is not a set of errant conclusions, per se. False skeptics do not get this. They believe the notion that

The ends justifies the means, the answer justifies the methodology of arriving at the answer.

Vigilantes and Police Forces both take people into custody at gunpoint, and sometimes kill people. They both have headquarter offices, but this does not make them the same thing at all. In similar fashion, just because a denialist might use some of the tactics of social skeptics and pseudo-skeptics at times (after all this is what celebrity skeptics have been teaching the public since 1972), does not serve as a basis to identify them as pseudo-skeptics. Social skeptics will employ the use of traits common to both terminology domains, those traits in the undistributed middle, to provide a basis for conflating and confusing the terms ‘denial’ and ‘pseudo-skepticism’.  They do so, for reasoned purpose: to blur the distinct integrity of words which might be useful in describing and communicating the methods of masquerade they employ.

Characterization by the Undistributed Middle

/philosophy : formal fallacy : fallacy of composition/ : a rhetorical blending of fallacy of composition and affirmation of the consequent, wherein traits shared between two distinct groups are used to underpin the claim that the two groups are indeed identical or falsely that a person in one group actually belongs in the other group. Usually a form of rhetosophy, used to support an agenda, in its conflation. All pseudo scientists promote un-vetted data, the proponent of this argument promoted un-vetted data, therefore the promoter of this argument is a pseudo scientist.

Being right all the time, is not the goal of an ethical skeptic. Investment in such ego and fear assets – introduces bias into the deliberative processes we undertake. I would rather be a mistaken denialist, who pressed their epoché just a little bit more than they should – than a mindless, bad methods, unethical pseudo-skeptic any day.

epoché vanguards gnosis

How to MLA cite this blog post => 14

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies, Ethical Skepticism, Institutional Mandates | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tower of Wrong: The Art of Professional Lying

James Joyce is credited with this wisdom, “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” Indeed, I would choose rather to be informatively incorrect, over disinformatively or uselessly correct, any day. This contrast in type of ‘wrong’ illuminates the domain of Machiavellian ideas, The Tower of Wrong; ideas which are woven of fact, yet serve to constitute in the end only adornments of error.
Beyond the three proposition framings of Wittgenstein, there exist six mechanisms of social imposition and the football-like nature of how quasi-truth is handled, which serve as the linchpins inside professional lying. The Tower of Wrong depicts how partly correct, correct but useless or dis-informing evidence (Wittgenstein sinnlos) is to be clarified as distinct from deontological information – information reliable in being critically predictive or bearing falsification outcomes.

evidence-sculptingUnder a Popperian standard of scientific demarcation, if something is rendered moot through consilience of its opposing thesis, then it is not falsified necessarily, however we may select it to stand as either a null hypothesis or a provisionally accepted norm nonetheless – most philosophers grasp this.  Of key concern however inside such a process of knowledge development, is when the possibility exists that our resulting relegation of an opposing idea to the state of moot-ness (pseudoscience) might stand as simply a provisional assumption bearing a dangerous undetermined risk? In general, a provisional conclusion is regarded to possess informing ability if that provision then becomes critically predictive when posed inside its structure of consilience.  By ‘critically’ – I mean that the provisional assumption itself serves to produce the prediction, not that it simply resides as a feature inside a host of other predictive peer elements. Evolution is an example of one such reliable predictor. However, purely random allele mutation is not a critically reliable predictor inside evolutionary theory, despite evolution itself so being.

Thus I cannot simply declare falsification to be the sole threshing tool means by which one establishes knowledge/truth/accuracy/foundation philosophy. Given this playground of slack, just below the threshold of Popper falsification, it behooves the ethical skeptic to be wary of the ploys which can serve to deceive inside claims of ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. It is not simply that our minds can deceive us into selecting for desired outcomes, this is a given. Moreover, our most risk-bearing vulnerability instead resides in the fact that stacks of unvetted, non-reliably predictive ‘evidence’ can provisionally stack (see The Warning Indicators of Stacked Provisional Knowledge) and serve to misinform and mislead us as to wrong or useless conclusions under a ‘scientific’ context as well. The following questions should be asked, when any proposition or claim to settled science has been issued as authority:

The Test of the Professional-Social Lie (Five Mechanisms)

1.  The (Wonka) Golden Ticket – Have we ever really tested the predictive strength of this idea standalone, or evaluated its antithetical ideas for falsification?

Einfach Mechanism – an explanation, theory or idea which resolves a contention under the scientific method solely by means of the strength of the idea itself. An idea which is not vetted by the rigor of falsification, predictive consilience nor mathematical derivation, rather is simply considered such a strong, or Occam’s Razor (sic) simple an idea that the issue is closed as finished science from its proposition and acceptance onward. An einfach mechanism may or may not be existentially true.

2.  Cheater’s Hypothesis – Does an argument proponent constantly insist on a ‘burden of proof’ upon any contrasting idea, a burden that they never attained for their argument in the first place? An answer they fallaciously imply is the scientific null hypothesis; ‘true’ until proved otherwise?

Imposterlösung Mechanism – the cheater’s answer. Employing the trick of pretending that an argument domain which does not bear coherency nor soundness – somehow (in violation of science and logic) falsely merits assignment of a ‘null hypothesis’. Moreover, then that null hypothesis must be assumed sans any real form or context of evidence, or Bayesian science cannot be accomplished. Finally then, that a null hypothesis is therefore regarded by the scientific community as ‘true’ until proved otherwise. A 1, 2, 3 trick of developing supposed scientifically accepted theory which in reality bears no real epistemological, logical, predicate structure nor scientific method basis whatsoever.

3.  Omega Hypothesis (HΩ) – Is the idea so important, that it now stands more important that the methods of science, or science itself. Does the idea leave a trail of dead competent professional bodies behind it?

Höchste Mechanism – when a position or practice, purported to be of scientific basis, is elevated to such importance that removing the rights of professionals and citizens to dissent, speak, organize or disagree (among other rights) is justified in order to protect the position or the practice inside society.

4.  Embargo Hypothesis (Hξ) – was the science terminated years ago, in the midst of large-impact questions of a critical nature which still remain unanswered? Is such research now considered ‘anti-science’ or ‘pseudoscience’?

Entscheiden Mechanism – the pseudoscientific or tyrannical approach of, when faced with epistemology which is heading in an undesired direction, artificially declaring under a condition of praedicate evidentia, the science as ‘settled’.

5.  Evidence Sculpting – has more evidence been culled from the field of consideration for this idea, than has been retained? Has the evidence been sculpted to fit the idea, rather than the converse?

Skulptur Mechanism – the pseudoscientific method of treating evidence as a work of sculpture. Methodical inverse negation techniques employed to dismiss data, block research, obfuscate science and constrain ideas such that what remains is the conclusion one sought in the first place. A common tactic of those who boast of all their thoughts being ‘evidence based’. The tendency to view a logical razor as a device which is employed to ‘slice off’ unwanted data (evidence sculpting tool), rather than as a cutting tool (pharmacist’s cutting and partitioning razor) which divides philosophically valid and relevant constructs from their converse.

Also, the instance common in media wherein so-called ‘fact-based’ media sites tell 100% truth about 50% the relevant story. This is the same as issuing 50% misinformation or disinformation.

6.  Lindy-Ignorance Vortex – do those who enforce or imply a conforming idea or view, seem to possess a deep emotional investment in ensuring that no broach of subject is allowed regarding any thoughts or research around an opposing idea or specific ideas or avenues of research they disfavor? Do they easily and habitually imply that their favored conclusions are the prevailing opinion of scientists? Is there an urgency to reach or sustain this conclusion by means of short-cut words like ‘evidence’ and ‘fact’? If such disfavored ideas are considered for research or are broached, then extreme disdain, social and media derision are called for?

Verdrängung Mechanism – the level of control and idea displacement achieved through skillful employment of the duality between pluralistic ignorance and the Lindy Effect. The longer a control-minded group can sustain an Omega Hypothesis perception by means of the tactics and power protocols of proactive pluralistic ignorance, the greater future acceptability and lifespan that idea will possess. As well, the harder it will to be dethrone as an accepted norm or perception as a ‘proved’ null hypothesis.

If the answer to any or all six of these questions is a very likely yes, it does not mean that the defended idea is necessarily invalid; rather that the methods of socially arriving at, accepting and enforcing it are invalid. These are the litmus tests of professional lying at play. Take notice that a ‘fact’ therefore does not serve to necessarily transfer or increase knowledge. Evidence is an amorphous hard to grasp principle which can be sculpted to fit an idea through the actions of a perfidious minded party. A principle which wise philosophers understand, but pseudo-skeptics do not.

dont-farm-tumbleweedsThe danger of such unethical practice sets inside of science are two-fold. Fist, at face value, incorrect ideas and tyrannical social science or public policy can be enforced as scientifically correct paradigms by means of these four mechanisms. But even more important,

even valid science can lose its public trust credibility when enforced by unethical means such as these four mechanisms.

One cannot simply run around conducting unethical social activity in the name of science, and justify it through one’s credentials being, or pretending to be scientific. The danger in discrediting valid science is simply too high – one is ‘farming tumbleweeds’, as the adage goes.  Man-made global climate change is an example of just such a situation, wherein unethical strong-arm and pre-emptive measures were used to enforce an academic idea before it was fully vetted by science (see Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection, 1972).  AGW turned out after the fact to have merit, but only after further studies occurred after the social chicanery, arrogance and derision had been well underway. We made enemies, rather than science. In this regard, AGW proponents, practicing these four mechanisms, turned out to be their own worst enemy – and every bit as damaging to the climate change advocacy message as are the AGW deniers today.

Which introduces now, this broader context of just what constitutes different states of being ‘wrong’. Wittgenstein identified a tri-fold disposition framework for propositions, which help the ethical skeptic work their way through this menagerie of ‘wrong’ and sort their way to the deontological goals of value and clarity. The ability to discern much of this, the critical set of nuance inside of Popperian theory of science demarcation and Wittgenstein delineation of meaninglessness, nonsense and uselessness, resides at the heart of what I call The Tower of Wrong.

Useless (sinnlos) Correctness Resides at the Heart of the Professional Lie

confused-deluded-and-the-skilled-liarSo we have established that the value of a proposition therefore relates to its nature in being critically informative or predictive. It cannot simply hide on the team of players composing a proposition or theory, it has to be THE star player when its time has come to stand at bat. What then do we do with Snoping; a condition wherein a proposition is factually correct, but because of the non-salient or useless nature of the chosen question or quickly ascertained ¡fact! surrounding it, only serves to dis-inform? The Tower of Wrong shows us how partly correct, correct but useless or dis-informing evidence (Wittgenstein sinnlos) is to be clarified as distinct from deontological information – information reliable in being critically predictive or bearing falsification outcomes.

Recently we finished a vitriolic presidential election, inside of which a particular accusation had been made from one of the candidates towards the other. Specifically, Hillary Clinton was accused of mishandling classified material at origin, by sending it through non-secure means of communication, and handling it in a non-secured environment and by means of non-secured premises and procedure.  The accusation pertained to a batch of several thousand emails which bore classified material and classified context, but were sent over personal computers and media services in violation of the National Security Act.

Clinton’s technically correct response to the allegations was issued as follows:

I have a lot of experience dealing with classified material, starting when I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee going into the four years as secretary of state,” she said. “Classified material has a header which says ‘top secret, secret, confidential.’ Nothing, and I will repeat this, and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice, none of the emails sent or received by me had such a header.   ~Hillary Clinton ¹

Now let’s break this set of propositions down by their logical calculus under The Tower of Wrong deontological framing:

  • First sentence – true (red herring, appeal to authority)
  • Second sentence – true (serves to dis-inform – ingens vanitatum – see below)
  • Third sentence – true (ignoratio elenchi – a misdirection in argument around threatening ‘classified material at origin’ laws under national security.)

In other words,  what Ms. Clinton did here was authoritatively lie, through facts and argument misdirection.  How do I know? I was a director level Black Top Secret intelligence officer for years. I know how classified material is to be handled at origin. Ms. Clinton conveniently misdirected the argument to a context of administrative handling conditions, wherein she either originated classified material, or re-posted or discussed such material stripped of its Controlling Authority context and marking. Nice trick. Origin classified material NEVER has ‘top secret, secret, confidential’ markings. Those dispositions are only tendered later by the Controlling Authority.² However, classified material of such nature prior to disposition is handled in the same way as is all classified material – and any recitation or discussion of such materials retains the classification of the referenced material itself (recitation: Executive Order 13526 and National Security Act procedures for handling classified material at origin).² If what Ms. Clinton claimed about having ‘a lot of experience dealing with classified material [at] the Armed Services Committee’ was true, and I think it was; then Ms. Clinton knew this to be a misdirection. She lied by means of an ignoratio elenchi fallacy called ingens vanitatum. A key element inside The Tower of Wrong.

Ingens Vanitatum

/philosophy : argument : fallacy : ignoratio elenchi/ : knowing a great deal of irrelevance. Knowledge of every facet of a subject and all the latest information therein, which bears irony however in that this supervacuous set of knowledge stands as all that composes the science, or all that is possessed by the person making the claim to knowledge. A useless set of information which serves only to displace any relevance of the actual argument, principle or question entailed.

Ingens Vanitatum Argument – citing a great deal of irrelevance. A posing of ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’ framed inside an appeal to expertise, which is correct and relevant information at face value; however which serves to dis-inform as to the nature of the argument being vetted or the critical evidence or question being asked.

Hillary Clinton’s statement was a correct lie in other words. She lied with facts. The statement does not serve to inform, rather it serves to dis-inform us all. This is what is called an Organic Untruth. It is one of the tools in the utility belt of the skilled professional liar and stands as one of the stack of key elements inside The Tower of Wrong (more specifically the ’50 Shades of Correct’ below).  So without any further ado, let us expand on this towering set of conditions of incorrectness.  In the chart below, you will observe the three Wittgenstein Proposition Framings, in burgundy (bedeutungslos, unsinnig and sinnlos) – comprising the stack elements which constitute the journey from confusion, to delusion, to lying…

…highlighting the final breakthrough in the mind of the ethical skeptic: Value and Clarity. The critical deontological nature of relevant, salient and scientific critical path information, as they are enabled by knowledge and the state of being found incorrect (has value: see blue pyramid stacks below).

The Components of the Professional Lie

At the heart of the professional lie, resides the agenda they are seeking to protect, the Omega Hypothesis. This is the agenda, conclusion or theory – which has become more important to protect, than the integrity of science itself.

Omega Hypothesis (HΩ) – the argument which is foisted to end all argument, period. A conclusion which has become more important to protect, than the integrity of science itself. An invalid null hypothesis or a preferred idea inside a social epistemology. A hypothesis which is defined to end deliberation without due scientific rigor, alternative study consensus or is afforded unmerited protection or assignment as the null. The surreptitiously held and promoted idea or the hypothesis protected by an Inverse Negation Fallacy. Often one which is promoted as true by default, with the knowledge in mind that falsification will be very hard or next to impossible to achieve.

The Omega Hypothesis is enacted and supported through the following Tower of Wrong elements (Wittgenstein sinnlos) and the four Wittgenstein sinnlos Mechanisms. As a note: The definition I have crafted here for sinnlos, develops the concept into a more clear and complete fit in terms of today’s methods of misinformation – rather than solely its classic Wittgenstein framing as ‘senseless’, which overlaps too heavily inside English as opposed to German usage lexicons with his unsinnig ‘nonsense’ class of proposition. In addition I have taken the concept of sinnlos and applied it into the following four stack elements (Ambiguity, Organic Untruth, Inadequacy and Mechanism) which function to underpin a professional lie. The final elements are four mechanisms which are exercised by the most prolific, celebrity, power holding and habitual appeal-to-authority enactors of the professional lie.

Wittgenstein Epistemological Error (Proposition Framings) – the categorization of a proposition into meaninglessness, nonsense or uselessness based upon its underlying state or lacking of definition, structure, logical calculus or usefulness in addressing a logical critical path.

bedeutungslos – meaningless. A proposition or question which resides upon a lack of definition, or which contains no meaning in and of its self.

unsinnig – nonsense. A proposition of compromised coherency. Feynman ‘not even wrong.’

sinnlos – useless. A contention which does not follow from the evidence, is correct at face value but disinformative or is otherwise useless.

Ambiguity

Equivocation – the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning, sense, or use in professional context by glossing over which meaning is intended in the instance of usage, in order to mis-define, inappropriately include or exclude data in an argument.

Proxy Equivocation – the forcing of a new or disliked concept or term, into the definition of an older context, concept or term, in order to avoid allowing discrete attention to be provided to the new concept or term. Often practiced through calling the new concept/term, falsely, a neologism or brush off with the statement ‘that idea has already been addressed.’

Ambiguity – the construction or delivery of a message in such words or fashion as to allow for several reasonable interpretations of the context, object, subject, relationship, material or backing of the intended message.

Slack Exploitation – a form of equivocation or rhetoric wherein an arguer employs a term which at face value appears to constrain the discussion or position contended to a specific definition or domain. However, a purposely chosen word or domain has been employed which allows for several different forms/domains of interpretation of the contention on the part of the arguer. Often this allows the arguer to petition the listener to infer a more acceptable version of his contention, when in fact he is asserting what he knows to be a less acceptable form of it.

Uti Dolo (trick question) – a question which is formed for the primary purpose of misleading a person into selecting (through their inference and/or questioner’s implication) the incorrect answer or answer not preferred inside a slack exploited play of ambiguity, interpretation, sequence, context or meaning. The strong version being where the wrong context is inferred by means of deceptive question delivery; the weak version being where the question is posed inside a slack domain where it can be interpreted legitimately in each of two different ways – each producing a differing answer.

Amphibology – a situation where a sentence may be interpreted in more than one way due to ambiguous sentence structure. An amphibology is permissible, but not preferable, only if all of its various interpretations are simultaneously and organically true.

Context Dancing – the twisting of the context inside which a quotation or idea has been expressed such that it appears to support a separate argument and inappropriately promote a desired specific outcome.

Wittgenstein Error – manipulation of definitions, or the lack thereof.

Descriptive – the inability to discuss, observe or measure a proposition or contention, because of a language limitation, which has limited discourse and not in reality science’s domain of observability.

Contextual – employment of words in such as fashion as to craft rhetoric, in the form of persuasive or semantic abuse, by means of shift in word or concept definition by emphasis, modifier, employment or context.

Accent Drift – a specific type of ambiguity that arises when the meaning or level of hyperbole of a sentence is changed by placing an unusual prosodic stress (emphasis on a word), or when, in a written passage, it’s left unclear which word the emphasis was supposed to fall on.²

Subject Ambiguity – the construction or delivery of a message in such words or fashion as to allow for several reasonable interpretations of person, place or thing to which the message applies.

Organic Untruth

A constructive form of argument which uses concealed ambiguity at the core of its foundational structure. A statement which is true at face value, but was not true or was of unknown or compromised verity during the timeframe, original basis or domain of context under discussion. Ignoratio elenchi is a misdirection in argument, whereas an ingens vanitatum argument is a method of lying through this same misdrection or misleading set of ‘true facts’.

Ingens Vanitatum Argument – citing a great deal of expert irrelevance. A posing of ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’ framed inside an appeal to expertise, which is correct and relevant information at face value; however which serves to dis-inform as to the nature of the argument being vetted or the critical evidence or question being asked.

Lob & Slam Ploy – a version of good cop/bad cop wherein a virtual partnership exists between well known fake news ‘satire’ news outlets, and so called ‘fact checkers’ media patrols. The fake news is generated and posed to the web as satire, subsequently stripped of its context by a third party, and then inserted into social media as true – whereupon it is virally circulated. Subsequently, ‘fact checking’ agencies are then alerted to this set up (the Lob), and then slam home the idea of the fake nature of the ‘news’, as well as the lack of credibility and gullible nature of those who passed it around through social media. This in itself is a fake ploy, a form a Fake-Hoaxing and Hoax Baiting practiced by social agenda forces seeking to artificially enhance the credibility of a news ‘fact checker’.

Praedicate Evidentia – any of several forms of exaggeration or avoidance in qualifying a lack of evidence, logical calculus or soundness inside an argument.

Praedicate Evidentia – hyperbole in extrapolating or overestimating the gravitas of evidence supporting a specific claim, when only one examination of merit has been conducted, insufficient hypothesis reduction has been performed on the topic, a plurality of data exists but few questions have been asked, few dissenting or negative studies have been published, or few or no such studies have indeed been conducted at all.

Praedicate Evidentia Modus Ponens – any form of argument which claims a proposition consequent ‘Q’, which also features a lack of qualifying modus ponens, ‘If P then’ premise in its expression – rather, implying ‘If P then’ as its qualifying antecedent. This as a means of surreptitiously avoiding a lack of soundness or lack of logical calculus inside that argument; and moreover, enforcing only its conclusion ‘Q’ instead. A ‘There is not evidence for…’ claim made inside a condition of little study or full absence of any study whatsoever.

Inadequacy

tree-of-knowledge-obfuscation-smThe entire core of fallacy, crooked thinking and misrepresentation of Data, Method, Science, Argument and Assumption which is reflected inside the Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation as it pertains to a subject. This is paired as it pertains to persons with misrepresentation of Opponents, Semantics, Groups, Self and Authorities.

Any condition where a conclusion is chosen to be drawn from, or the science is regarded as settled under, a less than satisfactory representation, possession or understanding of the available evidence or under a condition where the available evidence does not satisfactorily provide for a basis of understanding, null hypothesis, Ockham’s Razor plurality, or alternative formulation (as in arguing M Theory).

Mechanism (of Social Lying)

Einfach Mechanism – an explanation, theory or idea which resolves a contention under the scientific method solely by means of the strength of the idea itself. An idea which is not vetted by the rigor of falsification, predictive consilience nor mathematical derivation, rather is simply considered such a strong or Occam’s Razor (sic) simple an idea that the issue is closed as finished science from its proposition and acceptance onward. An einfach mechanism may or may not be existentially true.

Imposterlösung Mechanism – the cheater’s answer. Employing the trick of pretending that an argument domain which does not bear coherency nor soundness – somehow (in violation of science and logic) falsely merits assignment of a ‘null hypothesis’. Moreover, then that null hypothesis must be assumed sans any real form or context of evidence, or Bayesian science cannot be accomplished. Finally then, that a null hypothesis is therefore regarded by the scientific community as ‘true’ until proved otherwise. A 1, 2, 3 trick of developing supposed scientifically accepted theory which in reality bears no real epistemological, logical, predicate structure nor scientific method basis whatsoever.

Höchste Mechanism – when a position or practice, purported to be of scientific basis, is elevated to such importance that removing the rights of professionals and citizens to dissent, speak, organize or disagree (among other rights) is justified in order to protect the position or the practice inside society.

Entscheiden Mechanism – the pseudoscientific or tyrannical approach of, when faced with epistemology which is heading in an undesired direction, artificially declaring under a condition of praedicate evidentia, the science as ‘settled’.

Skulptur Mechanism – the pseudoscientific method of treating evidence as a work of sculpture. Methodical inverse negation techniques employed to dismiss data, block research, obfuscate science and constrain ideas such that what remains is the conclusion one sought in the first place. A common tactic of those who boast of all their thoughts being ‘evidence based’. The tendency to view a logical razor as a device which is employed to ‘slice off’ unwanted data (evidence sculpting tool), rather than as a cutting tool (pharmacist’s cutting and partitioning razor) which divides philosophically valid and relevant constructs from their converse.

Verdrängung Mechanism – the level of control and idea displacement achieved through skillful employment of the duality between pluralistic ignorance and the Lindy Effect. The longer a control-minded group can sustain an Omega Hypothesis perception by means of the tactics and power protocols of proactive pluralistic ignorance, the greater future acceptability and lifespan that idea will possess. As well, the harder it will to be dethrone as an accepted norm or perception as a ‘proved’ null hypothesis.

This wiggle room between what is considered to be ‘correct’ and what is indeed true-informing, resides at the heart of the 50 Shades of Correct. As you make your journey past the confused, deluded and lying members of our society, this mental framework is useful in vetting those who are interested in pushing agendas, from those who are keenly and openly interested in the truth.

epoché vanguards gnosis


¹  Politifact, “Hillary Clinton says none of her emails had classification headers,” Lauren Carroll, ; http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/sep/07/hillary-clinton/clinton-says-none-her-emails-were-labeled-top-secr/

²  Executive Order 13526- Classified National Security Information/National Security Act

January 11, 2017 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies, Institutional Mandates | , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Journalism Schools We Deserve Better Quality Graduates as Aspiring Science Communicators

Trust is at an all time low for Science Journalism in 2017, even off an already abysmally low performance from the last time trust in influencing professions was measured and ranked in 2012/2013. I would daresay now, the data is showing that science communicators are ranked right alongside Congressmen and used car salespeople regarding their established level of public trust. They have worked hard to earn this notorious accolade. These are not the sharpest tools in the drawer. We deserve better than this.
This blog article seeks to outline some of the characteristics we deserve and should demand from our science communicating journalists. And here is a thought, it would also be nice if they actually were real scientists, technicians, engineers or medical professionals.

Science Communicators are Ranked Alongside Used Car Salespeople in Terms of Trustworthiness

Now I do not pretend in the least that the solution to this is anything close to being easy to devise; as I advise my alma mater from time to time regarding what industry needs most from its science and engineering graduates. In my labs, advisory and operating companies, I grew frustrated at having to retrain every STEM graduate over their first three years of work, in order to unlearn them the quasi-baloney they were taught in undergraduate school. This was becoming very costly in terms of time and useless salary burden. Instead, I shifted to a program of hiring interns as soon as they had passed their Freshman year at three particular universities, and systematically training them alongside their college education – ending up hiring 100% of the engineering and science interns which I had used in this fashion inside a variety of STEM analytical, design and research job functions.

I found it interesting to note how much a person can accomplish, if you do not allow in the idea beforehand that they don’t know how to do it.

Interns served to provide creative new approaches to industry practices which were long tried, true and worn out. This was refreshing and surprising, and in small ways reflected a mutual positional symbiosis between the intern and the company.

My interns did not spend the summers partying in Europe and learning how wonderful a snowflake they were. They learned the hard lessons of client demands, complicated design challenges and demanding bosses.

trust-in-science-journalistsShifting the advance and transfer in the course of these schools’ rather large ship, in order to keep up with the pace of changing technology and economic understanding is monumental in the least; only accomplished through the work of literally hundreds of advisors, instructors and textbook authors for each university school alone.  Developing professionals prepared to deal with modern science, engineering and business challenges is a daunting task, no doubt. So when it comes to extrapolating this process into changing the course of the ship of journalism, I can understand that this is no simple matter. Yet it still needs to be done. In his Westview Press opinion piece, “Good News Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest”, philosopher Jeremy Iggers laments about the role of journalism being ethically more suited to the measuring and exposition of public sentiment and not as a mouthpiece for corporate indoctrination interests.

“Although journalism’s ethics rest on the idea of journalism as a profession, the rise of market-driven journalism has undermined journalists’ professional status. Ultimately journalism is impossible without a public that cares about the common life. A more meaningful approach to journalism ethics must begin with a consideration of the role of the news media in a democratic society and proceed to look for practical ways in which journalism can contribute to the vitality of public life.” (Iggers, J.)†

We believe that science journalism’s betrayal of this ethic is the primary contributor to its decline in perception. Indeed, trust is at an all time low for Science Journalism in 2017, even off an already abysmally low performance from the last time trust in influencing professions was measured and ranked in 2012/2013 (depicted to the right, from two polls).¹ ² I would daresay now, after the horridly bad year of political advocacy masquerading as science, that science communicators are ranked right alongside the Congressmen and Car Salespeople chart data in their level of public trust. They have worked hard to earn this notorious accolade.

People, like me, are heavily involved in issues on a daily and personal basis. When I see an issue unfairly reported in the media, one in which I work professionally every day – containing an agenda and a purposeful bias slant, which I know that much of the American public will not catch – this makes me upset. Journalists misreport and partially report the facts, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this simply originates from the desire to appear confident while unfortunately in a low position of knowledge. More ominously other times, it stems from a skulptur mechanism which is seeking to protect an idea they were taught and adopted long ago. A key term, exemplifying this tactic is named below.

Nonaganda

/philosophy : locution methods : misinformation/disinformation/ : (see Evidence Sculpting or Skulptur Mechanism) a media which does no real investigation, relates 100% accurate fact or even does ‘fact-checking’, yet still ignores 50% of relevance concerning an issue, is still fake news.

Crier of the Gaps

/philosophy : locution methods : misinformation/disinformation/ : a practice which has replaced the principle of God of the Gaps solutions to systemic problems. Filling in and smoothing over gaps in information or understanding, through media intimidation, bravado and over-publication – as a means to defacto adjudicate/emasculate such gaps in understanding in the realm of public opinion, through jackboot ignorance, nonaganda and propaganda.

For instance, I do strategy in the grain and grain based food trades industry. I work every day inside this industry and represent buyers, growers, traders, markets, trade agencies and governments in at-risk nations in terms of food security. So much misinformation is related by journalists regarding this industry – all in support of a seed cartel based market practice which is currently harming the health of our farms economically, and increasing food insecurity worldwide. But organizations like Forbes, who’s journalists don’t really understand nor work inside this tradesphere, routinely publish partial, mis or dis-informative work which supports those entities who are ironically introducing risk into the market in the first place. As a grain trade professional, the incompetence of this media outlet presents itself as a very frustrating specter. The fully accurate, yet partial information they present is serving to support mechanisms which harm the small to medium sized farm, and necessitates the need to introduce subsidies and high health risk technologies in order to help bulwark the market, in response to ad initio bad economic practices. Practices which a 12-year experienced journalist often times does not possess the training nor experience base necessary in grasping.  It took me 18 years of doing strategy on a daily basis to begin to understand these complexities – and I graduated from the #1 school of this discipline in the nation.

It is one thing to wallow in ignorance, this is an intrinsic part of the sad reality which we face as humanity. It is another thing to shout ignorance from the rooftops because we want to replace holes in understanding, no longer with ‘God’ per se, but rather now with bravado and implicit intimidation. We need journalists who are trained to spot this bad practice, not who are trained to ensure that it happens.

And Here are Some Examples Why

As an example, some summaries below come from the bio’s of Tier I Science Communicating journalists. I am not really wishing to focus on the persons, rather the ideas entailed here, so these are posed anonymously. The persons involved are high quality individuals in matters other than their claim to represent science. I am critiquing practices of an industry, not the people themselves. However, that being said, none of these people are even remotely qualified to comment or communicate the topics about which they boast as authorities – and worse than that, boast as spokespersons for an entire super-discipline called science itself.

…career working in government relations and public policy, ended up as an entrepreneur before landing at NASA where fell in love with its openness and limitless ability to inspire. Dedicated the last few years of life to extending that openness to space fans and journalists everywhere, using social media and a warm “class clown” persona to connect with the people who most want to hear the message. Holds no STEM education or employment background.

…received master’s in journalism at the University of ______________ (also my undergrad alma mater), and teach journalism at _______University in _______. I previously taught high school and often think of my journalism as a form of teaching, by helping others understand science and medical research and by debunking (despite holding absolutely no skills or quals whatsoever) misinformation about vaccines, chemicals and other misunderstood topics. Biggest life qualifications were hiking and diving in Europe, getting married and having a child within the last two years.

…an inquisitive (non-degree holding) agnostic born in _____________ and living in _____________, with her nerdy husband, curious toddler daughter, infant son, and needy dog. Her interests and pastimes fluctuate wildly, but always consist of family, reading and writing, cheese, and the world of genetics/bioinformatics. Most significant publication is a polemic attacking a person they did not like.

…has been an adjunct professor (largest accomplishment) in the graduate Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program at _________ University for the past few years. A frequent lecturer and has appeared at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Yale University and New York University among many others. Was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (a non-expert volunteer organization of non-scientist political activists) for the Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering. Holds no science nor engineering employment or degree history.

…previously, spent nearly 14 years at ________ in positions culminating as executive editor. Work in writing and overseeing articles about space topics helped garner that magazine the Space Foundation’s Public Outreach Award (Appeal to Authority Reach Around). Was Science Writer in Residence at the ___________. Chapter on science editing appears in A Field Guide for Science Writers. Former chair of Science Writers in New York and a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Mostly ceremonial, low activity and high visibility accolade-infusing positions. Holds no science, engineering, environmental science, astrophysics positions, experience nor degrees.

folta-said-it-firstIn the end, there exists a distinct difference between a mom advocating on behalf of finding out why her children are chronically sick, and seeking to establish as sponsor, plurality under Ockham’s Razor – and an unqualified mom who pretends to represent broad sets of scientific knowledge, final conclusions and attempts to squelch and bully the voices of those who have been, by a sufficient threshold of Ockham’s Razor evidence, arguably harmed. Science communication habitually evades ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ in favor of social psychological manipulation specifically because of an inability on the part of the participants therein, to recognize what indeed is fact and evidence to begin with.

If, in similar shortfall to Kevin Folta, you cannot understand the difference between a sponsor seeking necessity research based upon direct observation science, and a pretender enforcing ‘correct’ ‘settled’ science through journalism, who is not even qualified to make such a determination – then you don’t understand the first thing about ethics, morality, logic, argument, skepticism and most especially the scientific method or science. You are ignorantly celebrating and enabling a cabal of writing, speaking malevolent idiots.

These people are not journalists, they are hired guns of propaganda. They are stupid, insensitive bullies, except where their progressive agenda tells them to feign compassion. Their inability to spot their role inside the game being played, constitutes a key feature of what Nassim Taleb calls the Intellectual Yet Idiot class of science communicator. They have not been educated, they have been trained to do a job and perform a crony role. Which introduces the issue, of what needs to change inside this training pipeline, in order to correct this enormous pathway of social damage.

What We Need and Deserve

trust-in-science-journalists-by-satThese are abysmally poor, unqualified and telltale propaganda-laden and indoctrinated biographies. Common themes promoted by these authors include: identifying the bad guys first, identifying ‘pseudoscience’ immediately, identifying the ‘anti-GMO-science-technology’ among us, associative condemnation and strawman as ‘tin-foil hat’ types, plagiarizing pre-written propaganda, targeting working Americans, misandry and class hatred, liberal socialist politics and hatred of working moms & the middle class. Often crafting articles which leverage all this condemnation through employment of explanitude based disciplines such as psychology, in pretense of being and doing science (there is a notorious #1 ranked social skeptic who is both a psychology Ph.D. and science communicating journalist, examine the chart to the right and take a hint here).³

These are not the sharpest tools in the drawer. What is being exploited is the relative lack of aptitude (see SAT by Selected Major chart to the right) and experience on the part of these celebrities; a gap of competence which affords crony entities the ability to craft, pass without scientist or peer input, and promulgate straight to truth, specific unchallenged agendas. The individuals sacrifice their integrity by taking celebrity and book deals as payment for their unethical service role. They become giddy as to how many people they can impart harm, and yet at the same time deceive as many people as possible into thinking that they represent science. It is the joy of magicianship and sleight-of-hand for the intelligent ones, and the heady rush of sudden fame for the not-so-bright ones. All payment for surrendering the will and the critical mind, and regurgitating the correct things which they are handed.

We deserve better than this. Our journalism schools are key in this formula of weakness.

In particular, our journalism schools (to be fair, some of these science communicators above did not even attend journalism school) should prepare to deliver:

  1.  Better logic mastery, science & analytical aptitude
  2.  A keener understanding of the Scientific Method
  3.  A modern understanding of the Public Trust and accountability inside the context of a constitutional-rights driven free nation
  4.  A keener ability to discern between actual skepticism versus corporate or social doubt-ism/cynicism/profiteering/bullying
  5.  Ethical integrity to avoid groups who tout fostering their careers through compliant reporting & plagiarized regurgitation
  6.  Exposure to a major portion of the US Demographic, not simply their liberal arts college, fraternity/sorority and 4 months of partying in Europe and having babies.
  7.  Understanding that republishing prepacked material/phrase-lifts/propaganda without recitation (from any source) is plagiarism. Even if they perceive it to be OK because the sources wants the material spread widely. Sometimes we cite sources because the information is wrong too, and we need to know who is crafting/spreading it.
  8.  Understanding The Art of Scientific Research
  9. Spending significant time (2-4 years) serving in impoverished nations or in a mission-oriented field such as the military or an objective charity in a tough environment.
  10.  A background in diverse sets of interests other than homemaker puffery and liberal think-tank cocoons.
  11.  Two to four years of experience actually doing something other than being a celebrated journalist or academic journalist.

And here is a thought, it would also be nice if they actually were scientists or even STEM graduates. This is what we deserve and should demand from our science communicating journalists.

epoché vanguards gnosis


†  (Iggers, J.)  Iggers, Jeremy; “Good News Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest; Westviewpress (1998); abstract summary, PN4756.I34 1998.

¹  Gallup Survey: The Least-Trusted Jobs in America; Nov 26 – 29, 2012; http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx

²  YouGov Survey: Trust in Journalists to Accurately Report Science; Dec 6 – 7, 2013; http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/tabs_HP_science_20131209.pdf

³  Chariot Learning, Average SAT Score By Intended College Major; Mike Bergin; Nov 03, 2014; http://chariotlearning.com/average-sat-score-by-intended-college-major/

January 9, 2017 Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Institutional Mandates | , , , | Leave a comment

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